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Liaison with Ministries

Page history last edited by George Farebrother 10 years, 12 months ago

2009 10 14 Bill Rammell MoD to G Farebrother re Netlap Visit, legality of Trident.pdf

Liaison with Ministries


This page is for correspondence with Ministries and their officials.  Much of this will consist of letters to and fro which invite comment.


7 September 2009.  Letter from Netlap to MoD following our Conference


6 October 2009   Letter from Bill Rammell at the MoD to Lesley Docksey about thermobaric weapons. A name change sorts out all the problems, according to the MoD.


14 October 2009.  Letter from Bill Rammell at the MoD in answer to the above 


14 October 2009  Extracts from The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict  enclosed with the above


19 October 2009.  Jenny Maxell disputed the use of the word "emotive" in connection with the nuclear weapons issue at our conference.  Bill Rammell at the MoD responded:


"I am sorry that both you and your friend felt the use of the world "emotive" in my reply to your friend was rather dismissive.  The use of the word "emotive" was designed to show that, whilst the debate should be grounded in fact and logic, the issue of nuclear weapons does arouse strong passions on both sides.  It was certainly not intended to disrespect the arguments of your friend and I am sorry if she felt it had done so.  I will ensure that the word "emotive" is not used in correspondence of this nature in future".


Jenny remarks: This last sentence seems to be a tiny victory but it will be interesting to see whether he means it!

26 October 2009  Final letter  from Lesley Docksey to the above letter from the MoD.  This is a model which may well become a test case for how well the Department lives up to the pormises in its letter of 14 October (above).  


19 October 2009 Lesley Docksey to Bill Rammell re 6 October on thermobaric weapons







Comments (5)

Andrew Lohmann said

at 8:45 pm on Oct 17, 2009

I am restating a very old argument but it might be worth putting down.

Look at the reply from Bill Rammell MoD I have some comments:-

Page 2, Par 2;- reduced number of war heads by 75% to 160 (previously there was 640) seems higher than I thought, but I guess Cruise Missiles were a considerable increase, then reduction when they were withdrawn. Even so all the guidance systems and warheads came back again in another form of missile but in greater numbers to Europe to point at Soviet Union. Having said that the number of missiles from memory in the 1980's was more like 190?

Secondly 100MT could be enough to cause Nuclear Winter and 100 nuclear warheads detonated would cause Nuclear Winter. So the modest tone in the letter about the UKs capability seems misleading. (Figures from memory)

Page 3, Par 1:-
I guess not stating the situation were nuclear weapons would be used is a way of attempting to avoid testing whether that policy is legal. But we know that up until after the fall of the Soviet Union Polaris was equipped with missiles that had a 60% chance of destroying missiles in there silos before they are used. After the fall of USSR Polaris was upgraded, for first strike capability, that is missiles had a 99% chance of destroy missiles before they are launched in the silos, this was the Chevaline project completed in about 1995. Subsequently Trident missiles have the same 99% (as 100% can not be guarantteed) therefore first strike capability.

Conclusion; there has been no peace dividend, no reduction of capability, but there could actually have been an escalation in capability even if there are fewer warheads in UK now.

Lastly the only thing another state can do given our first strike capability, is to get nuclear armed and use there weapons early before they are taken out.

Andrew Lohmann said

at 9:03 pm on Oct 17, 2009

A small point the letter from the MoD says reduced by 75% to 160 warheads, but if that is a mistake and "by 75%" is replaced with "75% of the former number" to 160 warheads, the original figure would be 200 which is plausible.

George Farebrother said

at 4:34 pm on Oct 18, 2009

Responding to Andrew.

Yes, the 75% story is confusing. Actually he says that they have reduced the exposive power by 75%, not the missiles. It's diffiucut to know what to make of this as they haven't provided us with details of explosive power anyway, Do they mean that the explosive power of each individual warhead has been so reduced, or do they mean the totality of exploive power of the whole arsenal?

Regarding your opening sentence - and the 75% point, we must sometimes be robust about numbers. And even this reduced figure is enough, as you say, to cause nuclear winter. A good analogy I heard at CND conference was that Jack the Ripper might say that he was going to reduce the number of women he mangled by 75%.

There's a lot to say about the legality of possession with the conditional intention to use them, and the legality of actual use. I am willing to argue that the intention to do something illegal, even under emote circumctances, is itself illegal. I've detailed this in the two attachments I'm sending you by email

George Farebrother said

at 5:29 pm on Oct 18, 2009

In resopnse to the corresondence Jim McCluskey has written :

I believe we should pepare a thorough and detailed response to this letter.

You're right - a great deal to think about

That response should include an analysis of 'Lifting the Nuclear Shadow', and the 'The Road to 2010'.
It would analyse such phrases as 'minimum capability' and 'effective deterrence' and 'the UK's disarmanent agenda'.
It would ask relevant questions after each section of analysis.

That is a job still to be done. Would you like to make a start?

With respect to 'the UK's disarmament agenda' we could include a critique of the 2007 White Paper on Trident. This included the undertaking that Britain would keep a nuclear arsenal for the next 50 years - clearly an illegal undertaking in relation to the NPT. Does 'the UK's disarmanent agenda' now disown this White Paper?

Have a look at the linked critique of the white paper I did a couple of years ago. I rather hope it does the job.
see (

A comprehensive response to this letter is a major undertaking. What do you think is the best way to proceed?

Best wishes,


I think the first step is to take up the meeting at the MoD which Bill Rammell offers. This will be about improving their responses to our letters, rather than about the issues themselves. The highlighted paragraph in his letter looks quite promising. After that we'll do a report on the outcome and clear it with the MoD as an accurate record of what was said.

After that we can try a response to Bill Rammell's letter along the lines you suggest and use it as a test of whether they are actually keeping to what we agreed.

How does that sound?

Andrew Lohmann said

at 6:16 pm on Oct 18, 2009

I think the yield (explosive power) is set before the missiles are launched that is dial in 10KT to 200KT (I don't know what the figures are), but this is almost irrelevant a few KT very accurately targeted will take out a missile in the missile silo targeted.

Although one 100MT war head could cause nuclear winter, a very much smaller total MT say 100 warheads of 20KT each on 100 cities causing fire storms in each city would cause Nuclear winter. Once again the stated reduction in yield may be irrelevant.

I must warn again that I advising from memory, but there are people in SGR that have the references and can check these points if there is value in pursuing them.

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